The Minaret of Jam
Deep in the heart of the Koh-Baba Mountains which is one of the most westerly extension of the Hindu Kush Range, at an elevation of around 1900 m above sea level and at the confluence of the Hari Raud (Herat) and the Jam Rud Rivers lies a magnificent Monument. This Monument is a free standing Minaret and is the second highest free standing Minaret in the World. Second only to our very own Qutab Minar. But the Minaret in the desolate Hindu Kush sub Range of koh e Baba is the one which inspired the Qutab Minar and the Qutab Minar because of the same reason has a striking resemblance to the Original. The Original Minaret and Qutab Minar both now enjoy a UNESCO World Heritage Status. Just that Qutab Minar is much more famous and well known and gets more visitors per day than the Original Minaret has in years, most due to the situation in Afghanistan as well as the isolated Location of the Minaret. And it was probably its isolated location is the reason that the Minaret survives to this day. And it's called the Minaret of Jam.
The monument which stands at 65 m is not really much lower than the Qutab Minar which stands at 72 m and as per UNESCO the Qutab Minar was directly inspired by the Minaret of Jam. And it was built at a time when the Ghorid Empire was at its glory and this Minaret was built as a commemorative Monument to celebrate the victories of the Ghorids especially the ones across the Indus into India. Some say it was built to commemorate their victories over the Ghaznavids in Lahore while other scholars attribute it to the commemoration of their victory over Prithviraj Chauhan.
And apparently it was built close to the Ghorid Empire’s capital at that time Firozkoh of which little remains today and the Minaret is the only reminder of the glory of the Capital that must have been. But today it stands in isolation away from any civilization in a rugged rocky Valley where the two Rivers meet. The Tower represents the height of advancement of art and architecture under the Ghorids which would soon be laid to waste by the “calamity” as it was called descended upon the Region from the Steppes of Northern Central Asia. Yes you guessed it right. The Mongols under the Great Genghis Khan who probably never came across this Minaret and thats its good luck. The City of Firozkoh was completely laid to waste by Tolui, the youngest son of the Great Khan. Tolui himself was the ancestor of the Ilkhanids and he was the father of Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan Dynasty.
Coming to think of it I think there was no way the Mongols could have missed this Tower if it really was in the Golden City of Firozkoh so why didnt they really laid it to waste like they did to the City. Maybe even these Wild Horsemen of the Steppes looked at this Monument in awe and admired it in all its glory. I have this vision in my mind of Tolui Khan, the son of the Master of the Universe, the Great Khan himself, getting off his Horse while gazing at the Tower and telling his men to just leave it alone. It was just too beautiful to destroy and maybe this is something the Mongols agreed with. Of course later invaders and conquerors would have left this Tower alone as just like the Qutab Minar it has inscriptions from the Holy Koran inscribed on it and hence no Muslim would bring any harm to it.
But of course the Tower is under threat from the passage of time and erosion. The Tower seems to be tilting and being close to the Rivers means that the constant ups and downs in the River’s course causes even more instability in the Tower’s base. And as recently as last year the Security forces guarding the Tower came under attack by the Taliban who set on fire a nearby Forest. Things sadly in Afghanistan are today not much different from the 13th Century.
The UNESCO describes the monument as such “The 65m-tall Minaret of Jam is a graceful, soaring structure, dating back to the 12th century. Covered in elaborate brickwork with a blue tile inscription at the top, it is noteworthy for the quality of its architecture and decoration, which represent the culmination of an architectural and artistic tradition in this region. Its impact is heightened by its dramatic setting, a deep river valley between towering mountains in the heart of the Ghur province.”
The criteria for it being chosen to be put in the elite UNESCO list are listed as the following “The innovative architecture and decoration of the Minaret of Jam played a significant role in the development of the arts and architecture of the Indian sub-continent and beyond. The Minaret of Jam and its associated archaeological remains constitute exceptional testimony to the power and quality of the Ghurid civilization that dominated its region in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Minaret of Jam is an outstanding example of Islamic architecture and ornamentation in this region and played a significant role in their further dissemination.
Leaving you with some pics of the Minaret of Jam from the Internet. Since a single pic doesnt do justice to its glory I am using multiple pics to highlight this hidden Gem of the Koh i Baba in the Hindu Kush. Maybe one day it gets the due attention as the Minaret it inspired gets.
All Pics from Wikipedia.